In March, Palpreet Singh Brar posed for a photograph with his fellow national team probable Gurvinder Singh. That single digital capture, of the pair enjoying a beer, was uploaded on Snapchat, with the tagline “Chillin like a villain… f*** India team.” On Monday, the 24-year-old and national captain Amjyot Singh Gill were handed one-year bans by the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) citing separate cases of indiscipline. “I didn’t take that photo, I didn’t post it, nor was I aware of what was written with it till a day later when someone informed me,” says Brar. “Nothing ever happened to Gurvinder, but now I’m the one paying for it.”
In Brar’s case, the photograph, which gets deleted from Snapchat after a stipulated period, had been taken a day after the Commonwealth Games squad had been announced, sans Palpreet and Gurvinder. Though the ban has left him disappointed, he asserts that the federation had already sent him a letter banning him from playing five-a-side basketball for the national team after he confirmed his participation for the upcoming 3BL (a 3-by-3 league).
“They told me in the letter that they weren’t going to let me play the full format for the national team, and now all of a sudden this one-year ban,” he says. “Hadh kar di ab.”
The towering 6-foot-9 power forward had first come into the limelight in 2016 when the Long Island Nets (affiliate team of NBA outfit Brooklyn Nets) selected him in the D-League draft. Although he didn’t eventually get named in the roster, he did become the first Indian to be drafted into the NBA’s development league. Subsequently, the Doda village resident from Punjab’s Sri Muktsar Sahib district fell out of favour with the BFI when he became the United Basketball Alliance (UBA) league’s highest-paid player – the event was later shut down by the national federation.
But it was a few weeks prior to that fateful photograph when Brar’s first run-in with the team’s officials began. After travelling to Bangalore for the national camp despite running high temperature, he was forced to skip the first three days of practice.
“I had told my teammates to inform coach Harjinder Singh that I was unwell,” he says. “Nobody, not even a physio, came to meet me while I was sick. And when I was well enough to get back to training, they just told me to go home.”
According to Brar, the fever was an opportunity for Harjinder to settle a score. “I play for Railways and he’s the coach of Punjab. We’ve beaten them for the past two years, so it could well just be an ego thing,” he adds.
Gill, meanwhile, received the ban after a bust-up with teammate Arshpreet Bhullar during the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. “There was indeed an altercation between the two,” said Vishnu Ravi Shankar, the cager’s manager. “But it was an action that had a reaction. And it all happened in the heat of the moment.”
The bans prevent the two cagers from competing at the senior nationals and also for the national team – they will miss out on the Asian Games. They can, however, continue to ply their trade abroad. Gill is presently training in the United States in preparation for the NBA Summer League where he can turn out for the Oklahoma City Thunder should he be selected. Earlier, Gill played professionally in Japan. Brar too travelled to the Far East last year. “We’ve played in professional leagues abroad that are very strict when it comes to player behaviour. So what indiscipline are we going to do?” Brar adds.
Interestingly enough, Chicago Bulls’ Bobby Portis was last year handed an eight-game ban after he punched his own teammate. The Indian player got an entire year.